Empanadas

Most cultures have a pastry/hand pie like this one ….. empanadas are famous in many countries, but I’ve only had the pleasure of eating them in Mexico so that is what I have fashioned these after.  They can be deep fried, but I prefer baking them for fluffy, flaky pastry and creamy filling.  Extra bonus points for the way your house smells while they are baking!

Empanada 1

In today’s version I used chicken, onion & red pepper, topped with a chunk of jalapeño havarti.  The tomatillo salsa was delicious for dipping!

Empanadas are such a treat.  These will give you flaky pastry, and a creamy tasty filling.

Make sure when you roll out your dough that you do it a little thinner than you would for a pie – you want to make sure you have a good ratio of filling to crust.

Empanada 2

Saute onions and garlic until softened, then add red pepper and cook for only a couple more minutes.  Stir in cooked shredded chicken and season to taste.  In this version, I added a couple of tablespoons of tomatillo salsa, and then topped with jalapeño havarti cheese for an extra bit of kick and creaminess.

Other suggestions for empanada filling:

  • ground meat seasoned with taco spices, topped with Oaxaca string cheese
  • leftover pulled pork and pickled red onions
  • wilted spinach, sautéed mushrooms and feta cheese
  • go sweet with fruit, cinnamon and a bit of vanilla

I’ve included my pastry recipe here, but if you aren’t into making your own pastry go ahead and use a prepared frozen pie shell.  Just take it out and roll it a bit thinner.

Cut your pastry into rounds, brush beaten egg around the outside and then put about a tablespoon or two of filling in the middle, add some cheese on top.  You will want enough filling so that your ratio of stuffing to pastry is tasty.  Fold edges up together and press to seal.  Set them on a baking sheet and pinch/crimp the top to make sure it is well sealed.

Brush beaten egg over the top of the sealed empanada, and then poke a hole so steam can escape and the pastry doesn’t leak too much of your goods outside the shell.

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  You can also freeze them on a cookie sheet at this point and bake later, from frozen.  Just bake a little longer.

Empanada 3

Oh, these were G O O D.  Before baking season the tops with salt and pepper.

Everybody loves flaky pie crust – but people are divided on whether to use shortening, lard or butter.  Through trial and error, I think I have found the best of them all – by combining lard and butter.  Try it ….. so light and flaky – you will love it.

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups white flour
  • 3/4 cup cold vegetable lard or (if you prefer) shortening
  • 3/4 cup cold butter
  • 5 tbsp very cold water
  • Lightly beat egg and vinegar

Whisk flour and salt

Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in lard/butter until pea sized.  Add very cold water to egg and vinegar mixture.  Make a hole in the center of the flour blend and stir in the egg/vinegar/water combination.  Work just until pastry comes together – adding slightly more liquid if it doesn’t, and if it is too wet, add a wee bit more flour.  Work together just until it all comes into a solid mass.  Knead very lightly on floured surface.  Wrap tightly and put in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.

Roll on lightly floured board until just thin enough to use for pie dough.

This recipe makes enough for 1 smaller pie (top and bottom) or a large deep dish pie crust bottom.

Creamy Cucumber Herb Salad Dressing

Creamy Cucumber dressing 2

We used to love going to a small restaurant in Mexico City, no name on the building and just a few wooden chairs and tables on the sidewalk … but oh … the food!  For 99 pesos we received an amazing set menu with four courses and it was always fantastic.  The chef moved on … (we spotted him at another place finally).  If I could remember the name of his new spot I’d definitely give you a recommendation to try it!  Anyhow … what was I saying … oh of course … this is a salad dressing recipe.  He made this incredible creamy cucumber salad dressing that was divine.  I asked him the recipe and he gave me the basic idea but claimed the key was the sea salt he used.  We walked miles looking for the store he told us to go to, without success.  Eventually, on another trip we found the salt  (from Cuyutlan), and have continued to pick it up every time we go to Mexico City!  I’ve finally hit the right ingredients here and this is delicious.

  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • handful of fresh herbs (I used basil, parsley and oregano)
  • 1 garlic scape
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper

Roughly chop the herbs and cucumber and place in blender, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Give it a really good whiz until smooth and creamy.  Depending on how juicy your cucumber is, you can thin it out a bit with milk or buttermilk if needed.

Tossed Salad

This is delicious tossed with your favourite salad, roasted and room temperature vegetables or as a dipping sauce.

Sweet & Spicy Peach Jalapeño Jam

When you’re sitting in an abundance of peaches, and the jalapeños are right outside in the garden, you start thinking of all sorts of great ideas for them.  This jam is perfect with its kick of heat and the sweetness of the peaches.

Spicy Peach 1

Oh my goodness, have to run out right now and get a wheel of Brie to serve this on.  It’s that good.  And that easy!

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 lbs (about 7-8) very ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped (you should have about 8 cups of fruit)
  • 3 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
  • 5 cups sugar* (see below, for Ringo En Orchard peaches you can halve this amount)
  • ½ tsp. Lemon zest
  • ½ tsp. Freshly grated ginger
  • 3 TBSP (half a 1.75oz packet) powdered pectin
  • 3 jalapeno peppers**
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Before you begin, place a small plate or saucer in the freezer so you can check the jam’s consistency towards the end of cooking.
  2. (Optional), if you plan on canning your jam, bring a large stock pot of water to a boil and cook your (clean and empty) jars and lids to sterilize them. Using canning tongs, remove the jars to a clean dish towel to dry. Keep the stock pot of water at the ready for sealing the jars later.
  3. To peel the peaches, blanch quickly in boiling water (thirty seconds should do), then transfer to a bowl of cool water. This will help the skins slide off easily using just your hands. One peeled, remove the pits and roughly chop the peaches. Place in a large pot or enameled dutch oven (stay away from bare cast iron or aluminum, as the acidity of the jam can react with the metal).
  4. To the pot with the peaches, add the sugar, 2 TBSP lemon juice, cider vinegar, lemon zest, ginger, and pectin. Stir to combine, and let sit for 10-15 minutes to macerate.
  5. Meanwhile, prep your jalapenos. Remove the stems, and cut the peppers in half lengthwise. If you want a spicy jam, leave all of the seeds and veins in the peppers. For a milder jam, remove some or all of the seeds and veins by scooping them out with a spoon. (See recipe notes for more details.)
  6. Add the peppers to the bowl of your food processor, and pulse until very finely chopped, scraping down the sides if needed.
  7. Add the chopped peppers to the pot with the rest of the ingredients, and place over high heat. As the mixture heats up, gently break up the peaches with a potato masher or fork. (If you prefer a smoother jam, use an immersion blender to puree the mixture BEFORE turning on the heat.)
  8. Bring the mixture to a full boil, and let cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom from scorching. As the mixture boils, skim off any foam that appears on the surface.
  9. To test the jam, spoon a small amount onto the saucer that’s been chilling in the freezer. This will give you an idea of how thick the jam will be once it’s cooled. If the jam sets up to your liking, it’s done. If it’s too loose, cook a few minutes longer and test again. (Once the jam has cooled on the plate, this is the perfect opportunity to give it a taste. Keep in mind that the jam will taste significantly spicier while it’s fresh than it will the next day. If you’re worried that it is still going to be too spicy, or if it isn’t sweet enough, you can add an additional ½ cup of sugar and cook until completely dissolved.)
  10. Once the jam starts to set up to your liking, remove it from the heat and stir in the remaining TBSP of lemon juice.
  11. Carefully ladle the hot jam into your clean jars (a canning funnel is a big help, if you have one) leaving about ½ inch of head room in each jar. Once the jars are filled, wipe the rims with a damp towel to ensure a clean seal, and screw on the lids.
  12. (Optional) if you want to preserve your jam, return the sealed jars to the stock pot of boiling water, lowering them in carefully with canning tongs, and making sure the water is deep enough to cover the jars completely. Cover the pot with a lid and let the jars process in the water bath for 6-8 minutes. Remove the jars and set them carefully onto a clean kitchen towel. Let sit at room temperature, undisturbed, until completely cool. If you’re using ball jars, the metal lids should make a “pop” or “ting” sound as they cool, and the bump in the center of the lids should no longer flex when pushed down on, letting you know the jars have properly sealed. If any jars don’t seal completely, store these in the fridge and use within a couple months. Jars that are properly sealed can be kept in a cool dark place for up to a year.
Spicy Peach 2

Sweet peaches, just gently stirred with the rest of the ingredients, waiting for their buddy ….. Spicy Jalapeños.

Spicy Peach 3

I opted to use my immersion blender to get a mostly smooth jam, leaving a few chunky bits for a little texture.

Spicy Peach 4

Cook until the jam has this glossy glorious sheen to it.  Once it cools it thickens.

 

This recipe is ENTIRELY from Willow at ww.willcookforfriends.com …. I didn’t change a thing, and it was perfect.  Willow notes that her peaches are not necessarily that sweet, but living here in the Okanagan Valley, and at Ringo En Orchard, our peaches are THE BEST, so I reduced the sugar (according to her suggestion) to 2 1/2 cups sugar.  That was perfect …. the trick is to taste your peaches!

NOTES

*Living here in the midwest, the sweetest peaches I can come by still pale in comparison to true southern, tree-ripened peaches. If your fruit are especially sweet, you can feel free to start with less sugar, and add more to taste. (Keep in mind that if you plan on canning your jam, less sugar means a shorter shelf life.)

**The heat of a hot pepper is contained (mostly) in the seeds and veins. To control how spicy your jam is, you can leave these in (hot!), or remove some or all of them (mild). I found I really liked the level of heat from de-seeding one of the peppers, while leaving the other two. If you aren’t sure how much heat you want, I suggest de-seeding all but one of the peppers, and adjust from there with future batches to find what you like best. (And of course, if you just want some good ol’ fashioned peach jam, you can leave the jalapenos out all together. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!)

Keep in mind that the jam will mellow considerably over the first 24-48 hours after being made, so don’t worry if it seems spicier than you want at first. When I first tasted my batch, it was waaaay spicier than I wanted. The next day? Perfection!

Kale & Mushroom Risotto

I love this risotto!  It has just a hint of parmesan, rather than being driven by parmesan richness.  It is creamy, and a delicious side dish.  Add some grilled prawns and you’ve got a complete meal.

Risotto 6

This creamy risotto packs a vegetable punch with loads of kale and mushrooms.

  • 6 to 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups mushrooms
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2½ tablespoons butter
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  • ¾ cup white wine or brandy
  • ¾ cup Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

 

Place broth in a medium sauce pan and heat to a simmer; reduce heat and keep warm.

Clean and chop the mushrooms and kale. Mince the shallot.

Risotto 1

This photo may not show enough kale, but I usually have equal amounts of kale and mushrooms.

In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, pot or Dutch oven, heat 2½ tablespoons butter over medium high heat. Add the shallot, mushrooms, kale, and ½ teaspoon salt, reduce heat to medium, and cook until translucent, stirring often, about 3 minutes.

Risotto 3

Love the bright kale against the earthy mushrooms.

Add 1½ cups Arborio rice and stir to combine, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add ¾ cup white wine. Cook, stirring, until liquid is almost evaporated, a few minutes.

Risotto 2

At this point, you’re ready to start adding the broth. Add ½ cup warmed broth to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until broth is almost absorbed. Repeat, gradually adding broth ½ cup at a time and stirring, until rice is tender but still al dente and sauce is creamy (you may not need all the broth). The process should take about 20 to 25 minutes.

Risotto 4

Stir in ¾ cup Parmesan cheese. Continue to stir until combined (or turn off the heat and cover the dish for a few minutes). Remove from heat and season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan cheese.

Risotto 5

This is very flexible – tonight’s version included crimini and Portobello mushrooms, but you could use any variety you like.  To make a vegetarian version use vegetable stock.  Make sure you love the flavor of your stock, so important to the finished product. This will lose its creaminess if you can’t serve it right away, so keep a little of the warmed broth if you need to soften it up a bit.

GARLIC HERB BUTTER MUSHROOMS

This is the quickest, easiest and least hands on side dish for your dinner table.  Also, goes perfectly wth a perfect medium rare steak …..

Mushrooms 3

Delicious!  I couldn’t believe how tasty these morsels were – make more than you think you will need, they are sure to disappear in a hurry.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 pounds cremini mushrooms
Mushrooms 1

I had the fresh herbs on hand, so used those, but dried would work well too.

 

DIRECTIONS

    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with nonstick spray.
    • In a small bowl, whisk together butter, garlic, lemon juice, thyme and rosemary; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
    • Place mushrooms in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Stir in butter mixture and gently toss to combine.
    • Place into oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until browned and tender, tossing occasionally.
    • Serve immediately, with a little fresh parsley.
Mushrooms 2

Just look at the garlic herb butter coating these delicate little mushrooms, ignore my much used mini sheet pan ….

This recipe was from the “damn delicious” website, and if you haven’t checked out her recipes, you certainly should!

 

Cauliflower & Feta Fritters

O M G – the salty creamy bits of feta combined with the still slightly tender but firm cauliflower bits are enough to make me want these on a regular repeat!!  I often find cauliflower a bit of a hard sell amongst the family members, but this will win over anybody sitting on the cauliflower fence.

Cauliflower 5

These make a great appetizer or side dish.  Serve for lunch with a green salad, any way you try it, they are a winner.

1 small head cauliflower (1 pound florets, i.e. stems and leaves removed), cut into generous 1 to 2 inch chunks
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
Few gratings of fresh lemon zest
3 ounces crumbled feta (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup slivered green onions (optional but I loved the colour and brightness)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes; less if using regular red pepper flakes, which are hotter
3/4 teaspoon table salt or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Cook cauliflower in simmering salted water, uncovered, until tender, about 5 to 6 minutes, until firm but tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain well. Spread on towels to dry as much as possible.

Cauliflower 2

Ice water is key to making sure your cauliflower doesn’t get overcooked and retains a bit of texture. Plunge it in right from the cooking liquid.

Cauliflower 3

Let the cauliflower drain so they don’t get mushy. 

In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together egg, garlic and lemon zest. Add cauliflower florets and mash with a potato masher until they’re crushed into an average of pea-sized pieces (i.e. some will be bigger, some smaller, but most will be little nubs).

Cauliflower 4

Sprinkle in feta and stir to combine egg mixture, cauliflower and feta. In a small dish, whisk flour, salt, pepper and baking powder until evenly combined. Sprinkle over cauliflower batter and stir just until combined.

Heat oven to 200 degrees F and place a tray inside. On the stove, heat a large, heavy skillet over moderate heat. Once hot, add a good slick of oil, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. Once the oil is hot (you can test it by flicking a droplet of water into it; it should hiss and sputter), scoop a two tablespoon-size mound of the batter and drop it into the pan, then flatten it slightly with your spoon or spatula. Repeat with additional batter, leaving a couple inches between each. Once brown underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip each fritter and cook on the other side until equally golden, about another 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer briefly to paper towels to drain, then the tray in the oven to keep them warm until needed. Once all fritters are cooked, mix yogurt with cumin, salt and pepper. Spread fritters on serving platter. Dollop each with cumin yogurt and sprinkle with pomegranate arils.

Do ahead: Fritters both freeze and reheat well. To warm and recrisp them, lay them on a tray and toast them at 400 degrees in the oven until crisp again.
Olive oil for frying

To serve

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp fresh basil
  • 1 tsp crushed pink peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • squeeze fresh lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients, and season to taste with the salt and pepper

Full credit for this goes to Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, I only made a few changes, and created my own dipping cream.   She is fritter obsessed, and I am quickly becoming just as obsessed with fritters.  Any vegetable seems to work as a fritter!  I think what sold these as being a bit different is the feta cheese.  Once you fry them up, that feta gets crispy and the flavour just intensifies.

Caesar Salad

Caesar salad 3

Love the textures of a great Caesar salad – contrasting fresh crisp greens, crunchy bacon and croutons, soft parmesan and a creamy dressing.

Everybody needs a great Caesar dressing in their kitchen, try this one and adjust to your families taste.  My grandkids don’t love garlic, so when they are over I usually go light on the garlic cloves but that’s totally up to you!

  • 1 egg (or 1/4 cup mayonnaise)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1-3 cloves garlic
  • 2 anchovy fillets (packed in oil)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup oil (I like to use a combo of vegetable oil and really good extra virgin olive oil)
  • dash hot sauce (totally optional)

Combine all ingredients except oil in jar or blender.  Shake/blend really well until smooth, and slowly add oil until emulsified.  Taste and adjust for salt and pepper, adding more if necessary.

Caesar salad 1

Everybody helps make dinner around here, and Stella is learning the fine points of knife work!  Don’t worry, she quickly learned to rest the knife against her knuckles to avoid trimming her fingers……

Caesar salad 2

Assembling that cheese grater has all Sloan’s attention.

  • Wash your lettuce leaves and spin dry (you can do this ahead of time, wrap in clean kitchen towel and keep in fridge until ready to use, it really crisps up the lettuce)
  • Cook bacon until crisp and crumble.
  • Toss stale bread chunks in olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper and toast until dry and crunchy.  (This is also a great place to use dried herbs, and some garlic powder)
  • Grate Parmesan cheese

Toss lettuce pieces in very large bowl with the bacon, croutons and parmesan cheese.  Just before serving toss with dressing just until everything has a delicious coating.  Taste and squeeze a bit of lemon over if you like.

This easily goes from a side dish to a whole meal if you serve Caesar salad with grilled chicken or shrimp, and a side of garlic toast.